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What drone is the best for a beginner pilot?
So, unless you were living under the rock in the last half of decade, you probably saw small hovering robots in the air, filming the landscape, most of them in the splendid 4K resolution.
Drones are becoming increasingly popular. Especially in the lower price range, the model selection is endless. We have summarized what you should know before buying a drone.
Just unpack and fly – it is often not that easy. It may take a few days for an untrained pilot to figure out how to control the drone, keep it stable in the air. A crash here and there is almost guaranteed in the first flight tests. So, keeping all this in mind, beginner models should be robust and not too expensive. In addition, you should make sure that you can easily find and buy spare parts, such as propellers (they are usually the first victims of those falls and crashes).
Good drone models have an automatic takeoff and landing. You take off and land them with a push of a button. That’s a big help for beginners. Some threats also lurk in the air, if you take your hands off the control sticks. If you lose control over the drone while in air: simply stay away from the controller. The risk that the drone will crash in that case is significantly lower. More expensive drones often have a home return button – with a push of a button they return to the starting point.
Whether the drone model you bought is easy to fly is possible to tell often only after the purchase. It is wise therefore, to search for buyer reviews, test reports or test videos on Youtube before you pull the trigger on the purchase.
The camera flies along
Many drones come with camera. You should not expect much from a camera on cheaper drones though. The recording quality is not comparable with models between $500 and $1,000. The image is often blurred, the colors pale and every shake of the drone is transferred to the camera (shaky videos).
In order to create stunning aerial photographs in addition to the camera, an image stabilizer is essential. You get the best results from mechanical stabilizers. Optical image stabilizers always reduce the quality of the recordings, because of the way they work – a part of the image can not be used due to the stabilization. The resolution of the camera should at least be HD, 4K recordings are even better. They offer more opportunities to edit afterwards.
For affordable drones around $100 the rule applies: Buy a model that has a camera able to create images in HD resolution. The quality will be higher than in models that send the videos live via radio to your phone. Anyone flying over people, buildings or land filming and shooting, or even uploads the footage on the net, should ask for permission. Otherwise there may be legal problems.
Sensors can prevent accidents
In addition to a high quality camera, good drone models also have numerous security features that facilitate the flying and help avoiding accidents. These include, for example, sensors that detect obstacles in the air. Very helpful are also automatic flight assistants. They ensure that the drone returns to its starting point if it encounters problems, or lands safely when the battery is empty. Intelligent drones also detect if there are no-fly zones – for example in the vicinity of airports.
What are some typical beginner mistakes?
After successfully completing the first flight tests, many newbie pilots rely too much on the drone automatic flying features and focus on the monitor, looking at the camera image. Filled with all the excitement, they re too late to notice when the drone crashes into a tree.
In other cases, beginners do not realize that the compass sensor can easily be impaired by the bodies of parked cars, manhole covers, cell phone towers or steel parts in walls. This messes up the automatic hovering feature and increases a risk of drone fall when you film a building or a inspect a roof. When the pilot is aware of these confounding factors and knows how to fly manually, there is no problem.
If you are a newbie to the whole drone world and want to buy one, you need to know some basics and want to pay attention to some of these things:
- battery which equals flight time
- speed – how fast is the drone
- drone range – how long can it fly away without pilot losing control over it
- camera – does it have one or does it have option for external camera mount
- type of controller
- home return button
Below is the table overview of cheap beginner drones and our reviews of each model:
Best low cost drones to buy in 2021
If you are a beginner looking for your very first drone this is the guide to read because I’m gonna show you drones that are not super expensive and fit perfectly for new pilots.
You might have read guides where people recommend Mavic 2 Pro as a good beginner drone – a $1500 drone for a new pilot? I don’t think so.
The drones I am gonna show you in this guide range anywhere from seventy dollars all the way up to four hundred and fifty dollars. You’re probably thinking, how is four hundred and fifty dollars considered low cost? Well in the world of drones, the average price of a drone that’s pretty good is about a thousand dollars so 450 – that’s low-cost in this industry.
There’s a lot of drones I’m going to show you in this guide and obviously I can’t tell you everything about each drone but I will link to the individual reviews for each of the drones (we did an individual review for most of them).
One very important thing to note before we get into the drones is that you need a cell phone to use all of these drones. I would assume that vast majority of you will have one :).
First drone to show you is the Ryze Tello – this is a $70 drone and it’s not too bad. It has a 13 minute flight time and has no controller because you fly this with your cell phone. It’s a pretty good drone and it’s got a lot of good reviews.
The camera is right up front and it’s non movable (no cheap drones have gimbal so the videos are usually shaky). But it does have some sensore you wouldn’t expect it to have – on the bottom there are sensors for indoor flying so it keeps itself perfectly in position. The battery will get you 13 minutes of flying time and you might want to buy some extra ones so you don’t have to stop for recharging but just replace the battery and move on. It also has brushless motors. If you fly outdoors, you might want to consider getting yourself a controller – they are different for Android and iOS.
The camera takes excellent photos with its 5 megapixel but the video quality is about 720 and since there’s no microSD card, the captured video goes via WIFI to your phone.
SG 906 and CSJ X7
Next model is SG906, more commonly referred to as the beast. It’s a really good drone with good camera all around.
CSJ X7 is identical to the beast, and of similar price.
SG 906 and the CSJ X7 identical and they come with the same type of controller. They’re foldable and very high quality with brushless motors and a little camera on the bottom for optical flow. If you want to film, you have a 2k camera in the front and you get 25 minutes of flight time.
They don’t have a slot for microSD card so if you record a video it will be transmitted to your phone so you need a good signal when filming.
A beautiful foldable drone with a nice controller that has a display. It also has massive props with brushless motors, foldable arms and ultrasonic sensors on the bottom for height. It also has optical flow to keep it in position when flying indoors.
You also have landing lights so you can turn them on at night or in the evening and your drone will light up the ground nicely. The camera has some dampening to reduce shaking and it is a 2k camera, which is also decent. This drone will fly with the included battery for about 20 minutes. Just like 90% of the drones I’m showing, you will need a cell phone to connect to this drone via Wi-Fi 802.
JJRC X12 and Eachine EX4
Speaking of drones with gimbals, this is the most popular drone on the market today – a 3-axis and camera that shoots at 1080p. It can take 4k photos which is pretty darn cool for this price range.
Our next model is actually the same as our last model – Eachine version of the JJRC X12 called EX4. It’s the same price as the X12 drone.
They have ultrasonic sensors on the bottom and an optical flow camera so you can fly them indoors. They have a 3 axis gimbal which makes these drones the most popular in the world as the video image is quite stable. They also come with brushless motors, foldable props and microSD card to record the video. Batteries are pretty good as you get 25 minutes of flight time with these drones.
Hubsan Zino and Hubsan Zino Pro
We’re gonna jump up quite a few levels in drone video quality with Hubsan Zino. If you have 20 dollars to spend more, you can get yourself even better version of Hubsan Zino Pro that has a lot more features.
Hubsan Zino Pro has a longer-range while same camera as Zino.
The controller is the same for both models. They both have 23 minutes of flight time but they don’t have any sensors on the bottom which is unexpected from drones that are in this price range.
They obviously put all the money into the camera and the flight dynamics and they did great job there.
It is small, feathery light and can fly up to 30 minutes. DJI Mavic Mini is currently the cheapest Mavic drone by DJI. It is a perfect drone for everyone, beginners and advanced users alike and it looks like a meld of all Mavic models together – it is on par with Mavic 2 Pro in terms of flight time, it lighter and more portable than any other Mavic model. The only drawback is lack of 4K videos but it does 2.7k and it is only fractionally worse than 4K Mavic models.
There is hardly another drone more compact and lighter than the new DJI Mavic Mini. Weighing only 249 grams (without propeller protection), the new DJI Mavic Mini does not even require a drone license plate or registration – for example in the USA.
Granted, it is not the most stable drone in windy conditions nor are the plastic legs and propellers as sturdy as with high-end DJI drones (cost of the weight reduction) but Mavic Mini is just incredible piece of engineering with frugal mindset.
- 249g weight
- 12 MP camera + 2.7k videos
- 31 minutes of flight time
- no obstacle avoidance
- WIFI tranmission
- Range: 4 km (FCC) / 2 km (CE)
- with GPS and downward sensors
- Check latest price!
Here is a full review of Mavic Mini.
XIAOMI Fimi X8 SE
Chinese electronics manufacturer Xiaomi Tech’s new camera drone X8 SE Drone has made its debut in 2019.
The X8 SE drone is marketed under the subsidiary brand FIMI. The Xiaomi FIMI X8 SE has a 4K camera and a three-axis gimbal and, thanks to its foldable design, resembles the DJI Mavic Pro or DJI Mavic 2 (Pro/Zoom).
The consumer drone has very small dimensions of only 204 x 106 x 72.6 millimetres with the arms folded in. This makes the drone about the size of a conventional smartphone. By comparison, the DJI Mavic 2 measures 214 x 91 x 84 millimetres when folded. The take-off weight of the FIMI X8 SE is 790 grams. The integrated positioning system consists of a modern GPS and Glonass module. In addition, the XIAOMI FIMI X8 SE has a Vision Positioning System (VPS) on the underside of the housing.
It is quieter than its competitors and can develop decent speed of 65 km/h.
The maximum photo resolution of 4,000 x 3,000 pixels.
When in video mode, the camera can record 4K images at up to 30 fps or 1080p images at up to 60 fps.
The data is stored at a bit rate of 100 Mbps on a local microSD card with up to 64 Gigabyte storage capacity in the drone. The drone is easy to fly and is suitable for beginners and professionals alike.
The Xiaomi FIMI Xiaomi drone has 33 minutes flight time.
While you are here, have a look at other drones worth buying that cost a lot less than the ones we listed here. I made sure to break them down into price categories and if you go through them, you will be surprised what do some of these cheaper models offer.
- Best drones under $50
- Best drones under $100
- Best drones under $200
- Best drones under $300
- Best drones under $500
In case you are a more serious pilot, we did a detailed guide on the best professional drones as well.